Inaugural writer-in-residence John Asfour poses with life-size picture of Joy Kogwa, and the board members of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.
– photo Deb Martin
Historic Joy Kogawa House chooses first writer-in-residence
Historic Joy Kogawa House is pleased to announce our first writer-in-residence, Montreal poet John Asfour.
arriving in Vancouver, Asfour said: “I am pleased to be chosen as the
first writer-in-residence at Kogawa house. I’m here to learn how a
community like the Japanese Canadian would turn a part of their
historical suffering into something positive by establishing a place
where writers can live and work. Japanese Canadians were very
supportive of the community of Arab Canadians and what it had to endure
after September 11.”
is the author of four books of poetry in English and two in Arabic. He
translated the poetry of Muhammad al-Maghut into English under the title Joy Is Not My Profession (Véhicule Press), and he selected, edited and introduced the landmark anthology When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, 1945–1987 (Cormorant Books).
The majority of the writer’s time in residence will be devoted to work on a book of poems entitled Blindfold,
which exposes the “rich and strange” possibilities of a life that has
undergone some frightening transformation and is displaced from its
element. The book is partly autobiographical—born in Lebanon, Asfour
was blinded in 1958 at age 13 during the Civil War there.
poems also explore feelings of loss, displacement and disorientation
experienced by the disabled and relates them to immigrant themes that
Asfour has previously addressed. Asfour suggests that the disabled
often feel like foreigners in their own land, hampered by prejudice
(sometimes well-meaning), communications barriers and the sense of
“limited personality” that characterizes the second-language learner.
in Vancouver between now until the end of May, Asfour will present
poetry workshops to a variety of audiences, in collaboration with the
Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Simon Fraser University’s
Writers Studio and the Vancouver Public Library. Opportunities for
consultation on work in development are also available.
Further information can be found on the website of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society at www.kogawahouse.com and TLC, The Land Conservancy of BC, at www.conservancy.bc.ca or by calling (604) 263-6586.
Contacts: Kogawa House Society: Ann-Marie Metten (604) 263-6586
TLC, The Land Conservancy of BC: Tamsin Baker (604) 733-2313
Information on Historic Joy Kogawa House Historic
Joy Kogawa House is the former home of the Canadian author Joy Kogawa
(born 1935). It stands as a cultural and historical reminder of the
expropriation of property that all Canadians of Japanese descent
experienced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Between 2003 and
2006, a grassroots committee fundraised in a well-publicized national
campaign, and with the help of The Land Conservancy of BC, a non-profit
land trust, managed to purchase the house in 2006.
with Joy Kogawa, the various groups decided that the wisest and best
use of the property would be to establish it as a place where writers
could live and work. Following the models of the writer-in-residence
programs in place at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in Dawson City,
Yukon, and Roderick Haig-Brown House in Campbell River, BC, the
Historic Joy Kogawa House writer-in-residence program brings
well-regarded professional writers in touch with a local community of
writers, readers, editors, publishers, booksellers and librarians.
in residence, the writer works to enrich the literary community around
him or her and to foster an appreciation for Canadian writing through
programs that involve students, other established and emerging writers
and members of the general public.
in March 2009, as a partner with TLC, the Historic Joy Kogawa Society
will begin hosting writers to live and work in the house on a paid
basis. Funding is provided through the Michael Audain Foundation for
the Arts, the Canada Council and through donations from the general